Overcoming the Cognitive Barriers to Allyship

Allyship has been a buzzword since the summer of 2020, and we don’t expect it to go anywhere in 2022. More people than ever have expressed intentions in becoming an ally at a time when performative allyship is widely criticized for being insufficient at creating the change that people want to see.

While the desire is there, the knowledge and understanding of being an ally is often lacking. Significant cognitive barriers persist for well-meaning people who want to be an ally to a co-worker, friend or family member. As organizations look to promote cultures where allyship can thrive, it’s important to examine some of those cognitive barriers so they can be broken down.

Cognitive Load

We’re all working more hours, taking on new responsibilities, shifting roles and acquiring new skills during a pandemic that has no end in sight. Minds are already stretched thin and exhausted as it is in our “new normal.” This lack of mental bandwidth directly impacts concepts related to diversity, including allyship.

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